Will Christchurch be an Accessible City for Cycling?

CERA released its draft central city Transport Plan “An Accessible City” last Thursday (hmm, just before a holiday weekend – trying to bury things?). This follows on from the Central City Blueprint that we saw a little over 100 days ago. It contains some quite bold plans for transport in Christchurch, such as changing some of the one-way streets and priority bus routes – so what’s in it for cycling?

The grand plan… (click to enlarge)

Here’s a rundown of the good, the bad, and the “interesting” as best as I can see:

  • There are a number of new (traffic-free) pedestrian zones, such as Cathedral Square and along much of the Avon. Excellent! What’s not entirely clear is whether cycling will also be able to take advantage of these routes (and preferably with some level of separation in places). For example, there are a lot of cycling lines all leading into the Square, but can you bike across it too? Interesting too that cycling only seems to be shown along the true left bank of the Avon…
  • A key feature will be the 30km/h central city zone covering much of the inner core. This is one of those little sleeper things that tends to get ignored in the rush to look for new cycleways, but actually shouldn’t be underestimated in helping to (a) discourage unnecessary motor traffic and (b) make cycling far more comfortable and safe with the remaining slow motor traffic.
    Still, there is the danger that it is viewed as the panacea for all things cycling within this zone, when it may still be appropriate to provide some separate cycling provision in places. Someone pottering along at 15km/h on their bike may find it pretty daunting to have a lot of traffic backed up behind them. And, as we saw briefly on the newly reconstructed Hereford St before the quakes hit, it’s a bit of a pain to be stuck in congestion on your bike but not be able to get out of it because the street is too narrow…

The 30km/h slow core in blue

  • Key cycling routes have been identified across the city. The Plan suggests that these could be a mix of treatments, from separated cycleways (separated from pedestrians as well) to just sharing with other traffic in the 30km/h zone. Hopefully there might be the opportunity to implement some neighbourhood greenway treatments too. Intersections along these routes will also be designed to ensure priority and safety for cycling as well. So all this sounds really great for cycling (in theory at least).

Separated cycleways – conceptual diagram

  • Those key cycling routes include parts of Colombo, Victoria and High termed “Main Streets” in the Plan. Although they are to be “prioritised for walking and cycling” and slowed down to 30km/h, they also tend to carry many of the priority bus routes and have no real restrictions on motor traffic it seems. The artists’ impressions show people simply cycling in the traffic lane with everyone else; again I’m not sure that a lot of the “interested but concerned” are going to buy that.
  • Some of the suggested routes seem a little odd as they head out of the city. I mean, why would key cycle routes head for busy Riccarton Rd and Fendalton Rd west when many people prefer something like Kilmarnock or Matai St? Once in town too, a number of routes seem a bit disjointed. For example, the busiest cycle route in Chch is probably the Armagh St bridge at Hagley Park, so should Armagh St be an east-west cycling route? (it’s not designated for anything else in the Plan)

Key cycling routes – are these all logical?

  • The plan says that cycle parking facilities will be provided at convenient locations” – this includes secure bike parking in conjunction with the new Bus Interchange and “super stops” (hmm, access using your MetroCard perhaps?). Private developers will also be encouraged to provide their own bike parking, but it would be nice to see a plan of where the City needs to front up with its own bike parking (either with public facilities or near other key destinations). I mean they’ve taken the time to show where the car parking will be…
  • A nice feature proposed is improved way-finding signage around the city including cycling routes. Hopefully this will be good at highlighting key cycling destinations and where good bike parking is.

Key ingredients for a cycle network: good parking and way-finding signage

  • What needs to be explained further is exactly how cycling is provided for if your desired destination isn’t actually on one of the key cycling routes. That might not be a big problem if it is in the 30km/h zone or on a local street, but what about the one-way streets or Four Aves for example? Although nothing was mentioned in the text, it was intriguing to see this mock-up of a new one-way street that seemed to feature separated cycleways on both sides. Could we actually see two-way cycling provision along these routes?

Separated cycleways and contraflow on the one-ways?

  • For motor traffic, the existing one-ways are largely identified as the main ways to get through the city (with even more preference given to travelling along the Four Aves if your business is elsewhere). However there seems to be little to actively discourage drivers from using the remaining non-arterial streets around town (other than the 30km/h limit). As it stands, I could drive right across town on a street like Manchester or Hereford; yet presumably that’s not what is intended. I understand the need for access by car to destinations and parking, but I don’t see why those same streets should also provide complete thoroughfare. Perhaps a few strong “breaks” in the network (with walk/bike bypasses) are needed to really encourage drivers to use the road hierarchy properly.

CERA has given people until February 1st 2013 to provide feedback on this Plan; it’s not clear whether the democratic process extends to having hearings or anything (CERA seem to be strangely immune from such public accountability requirements…). Nevertheless, it’s pretty important that you have your say and let them know what you like and dislike.

So what do you think of the draft Transport Plan?


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  • Chrys
    20 November 2012, 9:05 am

    Great post! thanks. I agree with your assessments here and think that two way cycle paths or a contra lane down the one ways would help things quite a bit – Particularly around the Polytech. – AT least high street is a walking street (which hopefully will allow cycling but nothing will be done for the huge amount of pedestrian and cycling traffic that is not just going between the Central City and the PolyTech. Students at the polytech trying to get across to the cafes/ eateries on the other side of Madras st are no better off, for example. Will their be some refuges? How about traffic lights across Moorhouse Ave on all four sides of the intersection so that it is easy for peds and Cyclists to get across it without having to wait for three crossings?

    I guess like most things the devil will probably be in the detail … and many statements in this plan are quite vague – the bike parking is one such statement. the other one that got me was cycle lanes will be provided where possible on other streets. What makes these things possible (or not), I wonder.

  • Observant
    20 November 2012, 11:21 am

    More a business as usual plan with minimal concessions thrown in for cycling. What is offered is conditional, ‘where necessary’, ‘encouraged’. Your parking example makes their priorities clear. Parking garages are prioritised and in abundance, cycle parking is merely mentioned and encouraged, with no real commitment provided.

    Words in the text may be adhered to, pictures are merely ‘artists impressions’. Still they are attractive,what we want to see, but not a commitment.

    The community has clearly asked for cycling and is desperate to find some hope in this plan. Compared to the past near total neglect for cycling this plan does offer some hope. I imagine that hope will only be fulfilled if many hundreds of us make submissions insisting that more be done for cycling.

    • rupert@Observant
      21 November 2012, 12:28 pm

      We should avoid using the Hope word.

      Hope is not a method.

  • Cyclomaniac
    20 November 2012, 9:00 pm

    I do not think that this document should be classed as a plan. In my humble view every plan has very specific milestones and allocates budget to every milestone. This is not to say that this document can not lead to improvements for cyclists but fact is that it does not offer a guarantee. My personal view is that is much more a vision than a plan. I do think that this document is a watered down version of Christchurch Recovery Plan. This document still revolves around the mighty old fashioned motor car. We have tried this model for decades and it was not a great success as was acknowledged by so many people in the Share an Idea campaign. I also had great hopes to see some form of commuter rail in this document and I think this is a missed opportunity. Public transport and cycling can complement each other. I do not want to sound negative because I am not. There is overwhelming support for cycling in Christchurch and I am sure people will make sure their voices will be heard at some point. But I am little bit over the artist impressions and the glossy pictures. What we need is an unambiguous plan that clearly sets out the course to become a genuine cycle-friendly city so can we all can measure the progress in achieving this.

  • rupert
    21 November 2012, 9:57 am

    Yes agree this is not really a plan – an upmarket discussion document perhaps. If Christchurch really is a flat city where cycling can be a dominant form of transport, you wouldn’t really get that from this document. Marks out of 10 maybe 4 🙁

    Many ratepayers don’t yet know they are closet cyclists and this plan won’t help them make that transition. Cycle infrastructure has to be more explicit for the consultation to be meaningful. Like, one way streets for cars must have a separate cycleway in the other direction for cyclists. European urban environments have this everywhere, its a core ‘thing’.

    I would like CCDU to display some leadership here and hold some focus groups (loath that word) / or whatever purely on the cycling planning option. A specific cycle plan must be produced quickly. Are we a flat easy-cycle city or are we not? If we as a city don’t get this right now, it will be forever relegated to the margins; and at the moment it’s not even really at the margins.

    Children will not bike to school until parents believe it is safe for them to do so; many areas are not considered safe now so children are driven to school. A focus to fix the ‘bike to school’ issue, and several traffic, route capacity, health, household, and developmental matters are solved – straight away. I sometimes have to travel along the base of the port hills, Cashmere/Centaurus Rds – there’s only one way out of there for hill suburb residents so I would see the explicit investment in the riverside cycle tracks and adjacent quiet streets a worthwhile priority.

  • Morris Oxford
    21 November 2012, 1:35 pm

    Gosh, what a negative lot we are cyclists of Christchurch. You’re obviously feeling pretty secure to be able to bag the plan so comprehensively.

    I have never seen a document that references cycling so often. 41 times over 20 pages by my count.

    To the planners responsible for this: You rock! This is exactly what we asked for at “Share an Idea”.

    To the cyclists of Christchurch: pull your head out of the gift horses mouth and support this draft plan with all you have. Quickly. Before they change their mind!

    Love, Morris



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